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Cross-level effects of high-performance work practices on burnout: Two counteracting mediating mechanisms compared

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to explore the impact of management practices ‐ specifically, high-performance work practices (HPWPs) ‐ on employee burnout. Two potential mediating mechanisms that counterbalance each other in the development of burnout are compared: a critical mechanism that states that HPWPs intensify job demands (which increases burnout) and a positive mechanism that states that HPWPs increase fairness among employees (which reduces burnout). Design/methodology/approach ‐ Questionnaire data are gathered among 393 employees working in 86 Dutch organizations. Human resource managers provide information about HPWPs while employees were inquired about their perceptions of job demands, fairness, and burnout. Multilevel regression analyses were conducted to test the assumptions. Findings ‐ The analyses reveal a slightly positive relationship between HPWPs and burnout, which is completely mediated by job demands. Fairness was associated with the experience of less burnout, but the results do not sustain the idea that HPWPs contributed to procedural justice. Although the data do not support the idea that justice and intensified job demands counteract each other in the development of burnout under systems of HPWPs, the results do support a critical "employee exploitation" oriented perspective on HPWPs. Originality/value ‐ Most studies on HPWPs focus on mechanisms that explain positive employee well-being outcomes. A more critical perspective, which predicts increased employee strain as a result of demanding work practices, is also valid. The results of this paper indicate that the critical perspective on HPWPs receives empirical justification and requires further elaboration in future research.
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Keywords: Human resource management; Job satisfaction; Performance levels; Stress; The Netherlands; Working practices

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-07-31

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